Lesson 5 – الدَّرْسُ الْخَامِسُ

The Possessive Expression - الإضَافَةُ

  • We are still in lesson five of our free Arabic language course. This Arabic course with images and audios will help you learn Arabic.
  • In this part of lesson 5 we will cover a new principle which is called the principle of “Arabic Possessive Expression” In-Shā’-Allâh (God-Willing). This expression is a type of the Arabic term which is called /Iđâfa/.
  • The /Iđâfa/ literally means (adding or annexing). It means adding one noun to another to form a relationship of possession or belonging (one noun being owned or belonging to the other noun – e.g. teacher’s book). Consider the following examples showing the difference between the possession and the belonging in the /Iđâfa/:

Possession /Iđâfa/

Belonging /Iđâfa/





كِتَابُ الْمُدَرِّسِ

The teacher’s book

مَدِينَةُ رُومَا

The city of Roma

قَلَمُ مُحَمَّدٍ

Muhammad’s pen

قِمَّةُ الْجَبَلِ

The top of the mountain

·      This principle is applied when two nouns are joined together to make one structure.

·      In the  possessive expression, one noun is the "possessor" called /Muđâf  Ilaihi/ while the other is the "possessed" called /Muđâf/ in Arabic. For example, if we say “the teacher's book”, "the teacher" is the possessor and "the book" is possessed.

·      In English this type of expression is constructed with the preposition (of) or using the letter (s) with an apostrophe before it i.e., 's. The examples of such type of constructions are:

o  The book of Hamid

o  Hamid's book.

·      In Arabic however, the possessed noun (e.g., book) comes before the possessor so it would literally read "Book teacher's".

·      Let us analyze an example below and we will explain how the rules are applied:

o  /Kitāb -ul-Mudarrisi/

·      The first part is the possessed noun (called /Muđâf/  - مُضَافٌ) – in our example this is /Kitāb/ (book) as we have already discussed.  The rules of the possessed noun are:

  1. Although /kitāb/ is not definite - in other words, 'al' (the) - does not come before the noun, it is implied.  Hence this means 'the book' and not 'a book' even though ‘al’ is not written before /kitāb/.
  2. The possessed noun can be in any case (genitive - with /kasrah/, accusative - with /fatħah/, or nominative - with /đammah/). We do not need to worry about this at the moment, in normal cases it is nominative so it ends with a /đammah/ but if preceded by a preposition it takes the genitive case so it ends with a /kasrah/.
  3. Since the possessed noun is definite therefore it cannot take /tanwīn/ i.e., it cannot take double /đammah/

·      The second part is the possessor (called /Muđâf Ilaihi/ –مُضَافٌ إِلَيْهِ ) – this is /Al Mudarrasi/ (the teacher) in our example.  The possessor can be either:

A.   Definite or indefinite (e.g. /Al-mudarrisi/ or /mudarrisin/ - the teacher or a teacher)

B.   The possessor is always in genitive case (therefore the last letter originally takes a /kasrah/ or /kasratain/).





The Possessed noun /Muđâf / takes different cases while the /Muđâf  ilaihi/ takes the genitive case only.

The book of the student

كِتَابُ الطَّالِبِ

On the desk of the teacher

عَلَىٰ مَكْتَبِ الْمُدَرِّسِ

The Muđâf can be definite (when it is annexed to a definite Muđâf  ilaihi) and it can be indefinite (when it is annexed to an indefinite Muđâf  ilaihi). In all cases the /Muđâf/ is never prefixed with (al)

The house's door

بَابُ الْبَيْتِ

An Imam of a mosque

إِمَامُ مَسْجِدٍ

·      Carefully read the following text and take a particular look at the vowel endings of the words:




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Saeed: Is this Muhammad's book?

Yasir: No, this is Hamid's book

سَعِيدٌ: أَكِتَابُ مُحَمَّدٍ هَـٰذَا؟

يَاسِرٌ: لاَ، هَـٰذَا كِتَابُ حَامِدٍ.

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Saeed: Where is Muhammad's book?

Yasir: It is there on the desk

سَعِيدٌ: أيْنَ كِتَابُ مُحَمَّدٍ؟

يَاسِرٌ: هُوَ عَلَىٰ الْمَكْتَبِ هُنَاكَ.

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Saeed: Where is Ammar's notebook?

Yasir: It is on the teacher's desk

سَعِيدٌ: أَيْنَ دَفْتَرُ عَمَّارٍ؟

يَاسِرٌ: هُوَ عَلَىٰ مَكْتَبِ الْمُدَرِّسِ.

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Saeed: Whose pen is this?

Ali: This is the teacher's pen.

سَعِيدٌ: قَلَمُ مَنْ هَـٰذَا؟

عَلِيٌّ: هَذَا قَلَمُ الْمُدَرِّسِ.

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Saeed: Where is the teacher's bag?

Ali: It is under the desk.

سَعِيدٌ: أَيْنَ حَقِيبَةُ الْمُدَرِّسِ؟

عَلِيٌّ: هِيَ تَحْتَ الْمَكْتَبِ.